Discover more from Restore Ottawa
A Good Kind of Trouble - Middle School Library Books
A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramee is a book for middle schoolers. It focuses on the trials and triumphs of a 12-year-old Black Girl named Shayla Willows. She has a wonderful mother who is working on her Masters in English, belongs to a book club, is a strict disciplinarian, the ideal mother. She lives with her older sister Hana and their dad, Richard. Hana is an activist and Dad is supportive of her. Shayla says her dad talks about white privilege a lot (p 29) but Shayla doesn’t think it a privilege when she sees white people blush and turn red when they get embarrassed.
Shayla moves up to middle school with two best friends from elementary school; Isabella is Hispanic, and Julia is Asian. They call themselves the United Nations. Much of the book focuses on Shayla struggling with her first year in middle school, struggling with her identity as a middle schooler, struggling with having to have an opinion about being Black when race issues come up in class, struggling with relationships with boys, and wondering if she should have more Black friends.
Running in the background of the middle school issues is the trial of a police officer who shot a black man and the concern that the officer might be acquitted and not get punished. Shayla overhears a conversation between Mom and Dad (p. 40), “ I don’t know sugar, I try to keep an open mind, but all these trials seem to end the same way. Doesn’t seem like Black folks can get any justice”.
Shayla and her Momma are in the car and police cars are on the way to a BLM demonstration. Momma pulls over and Shayla says, “Do the police hate us? Hate Black people?” Momma says instead that police have been fed a diet of information about people with brown skin and think they are scary. “That’s how the police have been trained to act. Its going to take a long time to change people’s minds.” Shayla says, “After the trial they’ll know we’re not scary. They’ll know we matter….There’s a video this time. No way the officer was innocent.”
The whole family decides to join a BLM silent protest (p 208). “There are posters of Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Stephen Clark and a bunch more people who have lost their lives.” It is a sad story, all but Trayvon Martin were shot by the police, the problem is that there are no details about the incidents and the implication is that the police are constantly shooting Black men. No mention that there might be mitigating circumstances. No mention of innocent until proven guilty.
There are discussions about stereotypes (p 274-275) Julia says that, “people think they know all about me because I’m Asian. My aunts act like a big disappointment because I’m not perfect all the time.” Isabella says, “Try being Latinx. People think we’re all Mexican. And probably illegal. I’ve never even been to Mexico,” Shayla says her friends have problems, “But it seems like I’m the only one who has to worry about someone in my family getting shot.”
The police officer is acquitted of murder but soon another incident happens. (p 313) Shayla’s mother is combing out her hair. “Then Daddy walks into my room. There’s been another shooting,” he says, and Momma forgets to be gentle and yanks my hair hard. “What happened?” Momma asks. “A Black woman was selling incense in front of a store.” Daddy said. “Someone called the police even though according to the store owner there weren’t any problems. And when the police got there—“Daddy’s’ voice breaks and he runs a hand over his head. Momma and I wait for him to find his way. He lets out a long breath. “Two officers shot her,” he says. “They’ve been talking about it on the news.” “Why did they shoot her?” I ask. “What was she doing wrong?” “Not a damn thing.” Daddy says. “Richard,” Momma says, she doesn’t let any of us swear. Not even Daddy. But Daddy repeats what he said. “Lord, Lord” is all Momma says…” When is this going to stop?” Daddy asks, but I don’t think he’s asking me or Momma the question. “Is there a video?” Momma asks. Daddy sucks his teeth. “Like that’s going to make a difference?”
Shayla decides to take a stand. She brings black armbands for kids to wear to support BLM. This violates the school dress code, but Shayla decides principle is more important than rules and continues to wear the armband. Her parents support her by going to the school and facing down the administration. I see this as more important as the progressives want kids at the forefront of their movements.
There’s more but you get the idea. The book paints a very one-sided picture. Black people are all unfairly oppressed , police are intentionally harming them. Protestors fight for the right; BLM stands up for innocent people. There is no information about the political nature of the organization, no talk of mitigating circumstances, the protests are peaceful. The only people hurt are at the hands of police. Thomas Sowell comments in regard to young people: They are told its important to have views, but you must know what you are talking about. This is not the case here. Without facts, without both sides of the story, you have propaganda.
One more little tidbit, a little icing on the cake; Shayla’s school is Ralph Waldo Emerson Middle School. She runs on the track team and the school they beat……John Wayne Junior High.